I've got to keep the tradition alive, and don't think I'll have time to craft a post tomorrow. So here's the diaristic, quick-and-dirty breakdown of the things I liked, as a cinephile, in 2007.
Film Events of the Year: Abbas Kiarostami retrospective (MoMA); Out 1 (Museum of the Moving Image); Pedro Costa retrospective (Anthology).
Somewhat Unclassifiable Amazing Experience of the Year: ENIAIOS IV (“Nefeli Photos”), Reel 2 (Gregory Markopoulos, 2004) shown at NYFF Views from the Avant-Garde … new film, old film, fragmentary screening—whatever it was it was one of the absolute peaks of my cinematic experience in ’07.
‘Humiliation’ Awards—the Five Masterpieces I Most Should Have Seen Years Ago That I Finally Got Around to Catching: Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975), The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940), Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930), and El Dorado (Howard Hawks, 1967). OK, the last one maybe isn’t quite a masterpiece by my reckoning, but it’s very good, and I still should have seen it eight or ten years ago. The first four would definitely have spots on my year-end old films lists …
Recent films—in no real order—more or less, here are some favorites that I could not have seen in New York before 2007: Tachigui—Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters (Mamoru Oshii, 2006—possibly my ‘film of the year,’ whether ’06 or ’07), Juventude em marcha (Pedro Costa, 2006) and The Rabbit Hunters (Costa, 2007), Quei loro incontri (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 2006), Espelho Mágico (Manoel de Oliveira, 2006), Pitcher of Colored Light (Robert Beavers, 2007), Respite (Harun Farocki, 2007), Correspondences (Eugène Green, 2007), Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2007, a gorgeous and gentle commercial film), Hide (Christoph Girardot and Matthias Müller, 2006), and We Own the Night (James Gray, USA). I also caught up on DVD with Volver (Almodóvar) and Miami Vice (Mann), among big 2006 releases, and liked them both a lot, especially Volver. (I like both Pedros.) Probably a few others I’ve overlooked. Without double-checking, I can’t remember if The Wayward Cloud played in NYC before 2007, but it mostly restored my faith in Tsai—I had a crisis after Goodbye Dragon Inn …
And a ‘took them long enough’ award for distribution, this year, goes to: Fah Talai Jone / Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000). Special thanks to Jit Phokaew for connecting me with some of the colorful 1950s Thai films it evokes …
Funniest line of the year seen in an older film for the first time: “I feel like a pig shat in my head!” (from Withnail & I)
Funniest line of the year seen in a newish film: “I’m-a come at you like a spahder munkey!” (from Talladega Nights) … or … “Call them shells” (from Hot Fuzz)
I Don’t Feel Guilty About This Pleasure: The Transporter (Yuen/Leterrier) and The Transporter 2 (Leterrier). But yes, I know the films are bad. And fantastic.
Educational Film Award (Ahem): Correction Please, or How We Got Into Pictures (Noël Burch, 1979)
Much Better Than I Expected (Older Films): Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965)
Much Better Than I Expected (Recent Films): Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Cribbing shamelessly from Olaf Möller’s/die Mannschaft’s ‘Eleven Friends’ mandate, I present here favorite older films (since that’s what comprises the bulk of my viewing) seen at home and in the world. One film per filmmaker. I’ve excluded Out 1 because it was specifically mentioned among the ‘events’ of the year (likewise the Markopoulos), but I have included my single favorite (newly-seen) Kiarostami and Costa films. I don’t know how exactly to explain the skew towards 1968-1977 films in my repertory list. Weird year, I guess. And surely there is a lot of gray area between these films and my 'humiliation' list. (The difference is that the humiliations are things I should & could have seen before I even graduated from high school.) Both lists are in very roughly descending order.
Eleven Friends on Home Viewing Formats
Sisters of the Gion (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936)
Il general della Rovere (Roberto Rossellini, 1959)
The Parson’s Widow (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1920)
Knightriders (George A. Romero, 1981)
Cronica di un amore (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1950)
Cracking Up (Jerry Lewis, 1983) (hat tip to Andy Rector)
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1968)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (Martin Arnold, 1998)
Él—This Strange Passion (Luis Buñuel, 1953)
Iracema – Uma Transa Amazônica (Jorge Bodanzky and Orlando Senna, 1976)
Terribly Underrated: Steaming (Joseph Losey, 1985)
Eleven Friends at the Rep House
Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977)
Serene Velocity (Ernie Gehr, 1970)
Homework (Abbas Kiarostami, 1989)
No Quarto da Vanda (Pedro Costa, 2000)
Sicîlia! (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1999)
Themroc (Claude Faraldo, 1973)
Hapax Legomena: (nostalgia) (Hollis Frampton, 1971)
La Hora de los hornos (Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, 1968)
Isabelle aux dombes (Maurice Pialat, 1951)
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (Ivan Dixon, 1973)
Criminally Underseen (tie): Shabe ghuzi / Night of the Hunchback (Farokh Ghafari, 1965) and Furtivos (José Luis Borau, 1975)